Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chronic Review: Prophet # 21!

Prophet # 21
Image Comics
Script:    Brandon Graham
Pencils:  Simon Roy

The new Prophet arrives with a certain amount of simmering heat, which is not unheard of these days.  It seems like just yesterday 27, or was it Nonplayer that was going to take over the world with its hype before it was ever born?  Neither is a bad comic, but neither has ascended to reach admittedly unrealistic lofty expectations, either.

Always start the day with a puked up stimulant
So consider me skeptical before I've even cracked a page of this, especially considering that the new "would be messiah: comes from the house of Rob Liefield and Extreme Studios.  I read the 9 page preview on CBR, too, and was nonplussed.

Here's what Prophet is, stripped of as much preconceived baggage as I can muster - singularly pure science fiction.

Comics do fiddle and fumble with sci-fi occasionally, with all the skill and dexterity of a 16 year-old with a peach fuzz moustache in the back of his Chevy Citation.  Ordinarily it's an excuse to dress up sophomoric sex play in a different costume, more an exercise in exploring a different brand of the same old fetish than actually delving into a different genre.  Even a book like Y The Last Man, an outstanding achievement, is more interested in its fiction than its science.  Prophet is a book likely to make Asimov proud.

 The foundational premise is dirt simple.  John Prophet has been asleep beneath the earth for centuries, and the story picks up as he awakens.  His mission is collect tools and allies in an apocalyptic future to begin the human race anew.  His first big picture objective is to reignite the G.O.D. satellite.  In order to do that, he has to whack a lot of weird creatures in the face with his axe, snack on what's become of the human race, and have sex with even weirder creatures than those he axed in the face.

There are more ideas per page than one normally bumps into during a modern comic book's reading. Graham has obviously spent some time thinking about tech, how it works, making it more biological, then taking it further into the bizarre and xenobiological.  He's thought about what's populating his future earth, and the politics of that.  He gives it to you in a manner that demonstrates he knows what he's doing as the author, and trusts you to know what you're doing as a reader.

Post coital bong hit - sexy!
This Prophet is much more than an imported hot artist and a guy with padded head gear, dig?  If Liefield's goal was to launch the property as a message saying "This is NOT your father's Extreme Studio"....mission accomplished, sir.

The new Prophet is interesting and challenging and different, and those are all good things.  Lots of people are wetting themselves over this book, which is a sentiment that I understand but don't share.  I think the spark I'm missing is in the art.  I'm sure I'm in the minority on this, and I'm sure he was appropriately chosen as part of the "not old Extreme" gambit.  I guess I just can't help but wonder how astonishing this would all look if they had gotten the next Wally Wood for it.  Wally Woods don't grow on trees, I guess.  (yes, I recognize that was a horrible thing to type in all ways)

I suppose the final assessment for me is that Prophet has a lot to be proud of, and I'm glad it exists.  This is certainly not what I was expecting, and that's an achievement all its own these days.  But in terms of freshness, vitality, world-building, it any better than Stokoe's Orc Stain? 

I don't think so.  Maybe the take away is not to dismiss Prophet but to re-assert Orc Stain as something worth keeping around?  I think for comic fans looking for something different, you've got a new, worthwhile flavor to sample in Prophet.  And for pure science fiction fans, you ought to be in love.

- Ryan

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